Sunday, 30 December 2007

Biography 12: Alan Davies

At long last, our journey through the most frequent QI panellists brings us to Stephen Fry’s favourite little stud-muffin, the eponymous, ubiquitous, indescribable Alan Davies.

Alan was born on 6th March 1966 in Chingford, England. His childhood years were spent in Chingford and Loughton where Alan was raised by his father after his mother passed away when he was only 6. Alan graduated from the University of Kent in 1988. It was at Kent that he became an active campaigner for animal rights, and a passionate vegetarian (although he is now a pescetarian).

Alan began performing stand up comedy in 1988 only five months after leaving university, with a three month trip across Canada performing at various Fringe Festivals and Comedy Clubs. The stress of performing to Canadians prepared him for his return to England, and he secured a TV spot within six months. In 1991, he was named Time Out's Best Young Comic. He soon appeared on Tonight with Jonathan Ross in 1992 and continued touring and performing in the UK and Canada, winning the Edinburgh Festival Critics Award for Comedy in 1994. Alan’s most successful stand up tour was his show Urban Trauma which completed a sell-out season at the Duchess Theatre in 1998.

Alan has most recently moved into serious drama. In 2004, he starred as Henry Farmer, a maverick barrister, in the ITV Sunday night drama The Brief, although he quit after the second series. His theatre debut was in Morris Panych's Auntie & Me. The production was a sell-out success at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival and transferred to the West End in 2003. Alan returned to the stage in 2005, this time alongside Bill Bailey as Felix in The Odd Couple, again at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Alan Davies is perhaps best known, not for QI but for his portrayal of Jonathan Creek, a trick-deviser for a stage magician with a side interest in solving crimes. The series ran from 1996 until 2003 picking up a BAFTA for Best Drama. The series earned Alan a large following of loyal fans and it has been exported to several countries.

2007 will probably be noted as a particularly turbulent year for Alan. In January he got married to Kate Maskell. It was a relatively low-key event although his good friend Bill Bailey was chosen as his best man at the wedding. However, in December a strange event outside the Groucho Club in London involving a homeless person made the national papers. Alan, having come out of the club claimed to have been insulted by the man and then bit his ear. It probably won’t be remembered as one of Alan’s finest moments.

QI wouldn’t be the show it is without its permanent panellist. Alan was originally intended to be the captain of the “dunderheads” on the show. The idea of a team panel show fell by the way-side before the filming of the pilot as Michael Palin failed to take the role as the host and therefore Stephen Fry took this job. However, Alan remained as the permanent member of the show, having missed only one recording in the D series to attend the Champions League Final. Alan is a huge fan of Arsenal but unfortunately they lost. Alan is the only guest who refuses the offer of seeing the questions one hour in advance (guests are given this opportunity to be able to think of some jokes) which makes his consistent performance even more remarkable. He certainly deserves his three wins in the E series.

Friday, 28 December 2007

Review - Strictly Come Duncing

Click here to purchase Strictly Come Duncing from Amazon.

Strictly Come Duncing is everything that its creators could hope for. It is entertaining but most importantly, it is interesting.

Having come two years since the last DVD a lot of lessons have been learnt. The previous QI game was complicated to play and left many players confused and frustrated. Strictly Come Duncing relies upon simplicity and straight forward interestingness to achieve a very entertaining result.

There are three striking changes in this game. Firstly there are the "Duncehalls", 9 different themes such as Ballroom and Latin (as Stephen makes clear in his introduction the names have no relevance upon the questions in the rounds) in which there are four 10 question rounds. In each round the player competes to answer the most questions correctly. Secondly, there is the option of a two-player quiz. And finally there is Alan Davies, with whom one competes in single-player. Alan did not feature in the first game.

These differences play to the strengths of this format. In the past game one could expect to spend an hour or two answering 50 questions where there could be some horribly frustrating 'dead ends'. The 10 question rounds in duncing can be sped through in quarter of an hour. This game is a very social activity, much like a modern board game. Even when playing by oneself Alan Davies (who was filmed answering the questions himself with no assistance) proves to be a fairly formidable opponent!

Duncing also exhibits some other good features. The questions and informative answers given by Stephen Fry are filmed as a single take for each round. There are no repetitive put-downs from Stephen for wrong answers. There's also a video of Alan as he intently watches Stephen. The credits are accompanied by out-takes, including Stephen's humiliation as he asks a question to which one of the answers is Twinings.

With 36 ten-question-rounds in total this DVD will certainly have the capacity to come out of the box more than a three or four times. Indeed like all of QI's best creations of late, it is best suited to dipping in and out of on a regular basis. Enlightenment should, after all be part of a stable diet. Say no to binge enlightenment!

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Christmas Quiz

If Christmas isn't already stressful enough, you can now enjoy this multiple choice exam. You might learn something (and isn't that what Christmas is all about).

Click Here.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 45

This week the QI column says the little L word. Click here for lots of love.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 44

The QI column has reached its 12th letter in its 44th edition. For lots of Ls click here.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 43

This week's QI column is dedicated to the number four. Click here to read more than four interesting factoids.

*Apologies for the delay in the writing of episode reviews. Commitments have delayed them, however, Christmas isn't far around the corner so they should be available soon.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Amazon Watching

Well it's now just 30 shopping days until Christmas. Obviously that means it's time that we start watching amazon's book chart's for QI's goodies. This year there's plenty to be looking out for too.

There's the Book of Animal Ignorance which is currently squeezing its way into amazon's top 30 as well as Justin Pollard's The Interesting Bits which is hanging around the top 50 mark. Meanwhile, moving into the top 20, last year's big hit the Book of General Ignorance has surged back up the charts to number 18. However, leading all of the QI books at number 15 and currently amazon's second best selling annual this year (sure to soon overtake the Guinness Book of World Records) is the QI's most recent release, the QI Annual 2008.

Of course if that hasn't given you an idea of what to put on your Christmas list then you've probably been far too impatient and bought all of them already. If that is the case, then be content with watching the world become that little bit less ignorant this new year by watching amazon's book chart.

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 42

This week the QI column takes in a rather seasonal meteorological subject - snow. If you want to learn more about this mysterious solid that falls from the sky, click here.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

QI E08 Review - Eyes and Ears

This was also the 8th episode to be recorded, click here to read the review of the recording.

First of all, apologies for the delay in this review. There should be another one very soon for this week's episode.

The guests for this episode were Phill Jupitus, Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell. All of these guests had already been to at least one recording so they all seemed to take the filming in their strides. David Mitchell provided a particularly strong performance in this episode, with his classic style of wit and sarcasm. Jimmy Carr's comments about wife-beating were probably the most risky though. Another highlight was Alan's inventiveness in cat packaging!

This episode will probably be remembered most of all for its final outcome. As is customary in this situation, Stephen read out the scores from lowest to highest. This was Alan's fourth win on the show and with a massive achievement of a 10 point lead.

Come back soon for a review of E09 and some other goodies on this blog.

Daily Telgraph QI Column - Week 41

This week QI hits the road to bring you lots of factoids about traveling. Click here to read the column.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Review - The QI Annual 2008 ("E")

The QI Annual
is an endeavor several years in coming, and thank the stars, it more than makes up for the wait. Its theme is all things beginning with "E", and unlike The Book of General Ignorance, the source of its content has little to do with what has already been featured on the show. It focuses, instead, on original tidbits of knowledge offered up by a refreshing variety of authors.

As its colourful cover would suggest, many of QI's regular panellists contribute items to the Annual, their topics ranging from the scholarly to the silly. Dara Ó Briain's narrative about how some of Eire's less celebrated historical figures have actually helped out the world of medicine is hilariously riveting, and Bill Bailey does his part in being entertainingly knowledgeable by offering up brief biographies of "Embarrassingly Named Composers". Even Clive Anderson's treatise on the English Elm is a pleasure to read, for it is suffused with his characteristic wit.

On the other side of the bridge of erudition, we get treats like Jo Brand's imaginary gig as an Agony Aunt ("Dear Aunty Jo, I am on a television show called QI and I keep coming last. What shall I do? Love, Alan"), the pictorial demonstration of emotions by Jimmy Carr and Rowan Atkinson, and Jeremy Clarkson's guide to eating exotic creatures (self-researched, of course). Alan Davies' piece is an essay on--what else?--Essex, and illustrated with a near-nude picture of Jodie Marsh, but it is surprisingly full of interesting information about the area, much of it garnered from personal experience.

Of the segments in the Annual related, if sometimes peripherally, to the show, there is a page on "The Poetry of QI", which has rendered extracts from the programme into free verse poems. The highlight here is Julian Clary's much-acclaimed "I Had Wind When I Met the Queen", but I'm a personal fan of "David Beckham Lives in Chingford". On another set of facing pages, the QI Elves guide you through a series of wacky experiments you can actually do, such as measuring the speed of light using grated cheese and a microwave. The accompanying pictures of them in lab-wear makes it clear that, yes, they've done it themselves.

The book provides well for those wanting quick distraction and those willing to delve right into the pile of wisdom. As you might expect from an annual publication, it presents a selection of games and puzzles with which to divert one's attention, including a fiendishly hard quiz that can be entered online. The QI philosophy of offering real knowledge in an absorbing way is not ignored, however, and the annual duly contains fact-filled essays on the eighteenth century and excommunication, tucked in among pieces about lavatories and erotica. Overall highlights include the multi-paneled pastiche entitled "The Education of Stephen" (which has to be seen to be believed), and a disturbingly graphic representation of "The Atrocities of Francois L'Ollonais".

Truly, whatever you were expecting from the publication of QI's first annual, you'd be hard-pressed to be disappointed. Go on. 100 Nectar Points says you'll love it.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 40

QI has now reached the letter K in its weekly column. For fascinating discussion of ketchup, keratin and more, click here.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

QI E07 Review - Espionage

Read the recording review here.

This week's episode was all about espionage and the guests were Jo Brand, Vic Reeves and Clive Anderson who were all dressed up in spy-type costumes - very nice. Subjects discussed included beating a lie detector, invisible ink, the cold war, fingerprints, falling lifts, tornados, activities after eating lunch.

The 'elephant in the room' bonus was won by Jo Brand who correctly thought that it was an elephant that Harry Houdini managed to hide behind a mirror. Despite getting the bonus, she only came third with a final score of 4 points as Vic and Clive pipped her to the post by both getting 5 points. Alan managed to get right down to -8 points...maybe he'll do better next week?

The Vodcast this week was introduced by the week's guests all in their original costumes (apart from a few missing items - see if you can spot them!). It contains the section of the episode about fingerprints and some other parts not previously broadcast.

Next week's episode is about 'Ears and Eyes' and is, as usual on BBC2 at 22:00 on Friday.

Thinking Buddies - Times

The Times newspaper has produced a rather interesting article on the creation, philosophy and success of QI. It's certainly well worth a read. Click Here.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Petitions, Reviews and Things

The petition to get QI shown in the USA by BBC America is now approaching its second big milestone; 2000 signatures. It has already surpassed the number of signatures that succeeded in getting the first DVD released but many more will be needed to convince a network in the USA. Please do keep encouraging your friends and fellow fans of the show to put their names forward in support.

Once again, the important links:

The QI Petition
The Petition Homepage
The QI Website Petition Homepage (new)
The Facebook QI Petition Group

Also, if you have yet to buy it, the QI Annual 2008 went on sale yesterday. There's a review on the way from MinervaMoon next week (QI Fanatic receives a name-check in the book so it wouldn't be proper to have an even more biased review than normal). Click Here to order your copy from for just £7.79!

There will be more reviews on the way soon. QI Fanatic is currently digesting Justin Pollard's The Interesting Bits: The History you Might have Missed with a review sure to follow. Click Here to buy your own copy. Don't forget that the Interactive DVD will be released on the 26th November so the Quite Interesting Blog will soon be buried in reviews. Pre-Order Here (make sure you watch Stephen's little advert if nothing else). If you think you're missing any QI goodies, go to this new list on amazon.

Facebook users will be pleased to know that QI's Rolling News widget (which you can view in this blog's side bar) is now available as a facebook application. It's already received nearly 450 subscriptions so it is well worth adding. Click Here.

Finally, blogger has a nice new feature which will allow you to receive email notification when posts are commented on after you have made a comment - a particularly useful feature if you have a question to ask. There should be a small box you can tick when you open the comments page.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 39

This week's column is concerned with emotions*. It seems that there wasn't as much interesting information out there as the elves expected. Click Here to read more.

*The main body of this week's column is an extract from the QI annual.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

QI E06 Review - Everything

Episode 6, concerning Everything, was the last episode to be recorded before the children-in-need and Christmas specials. Consequently it was fairly obvious to the audience that this episode was for all the interesting E's that didn't warrant, or couldn't fit into an episode devoted to one subject.

Subjects ranged from Ecstacy to Lumberjacks. The section about Taking the King's Shilling was contributed mainly on the QI forum. Click Here to read more about it.

Some of the sections that were cut included a discussion about Ebay and a sentence with no letter E's in it. Aliens, mountains and sleep were also missed out. Unfortunately, although the audience were shown pictures of the fainting goats, the copyright could not be attained so this was cut.

This was the episode in which Stephen revealed that at the time he was one of only 5 people who knew the ending of Harry Potter (since he had recorded the audiobooks). Alan achieved yet another second place. This is one of Alan's best series in terms of his scores. Perhaps he's started swotting for the show, but we will never know.

Once again don't forget to watch the QI vodcast. Of the stuff you won't have seen in the episode, Stephen discussing Ibiza, plus Jeremy on France and Greece are the highlights. Watch out for Jeremy in the outro as well! Click Here.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 38

Always though that Hallowe'en is a purely pagan festival? Think again and read this week's QI Column here.

Monday, 22 October 2007

QI E05 Review - Europe

Episode E05, the 6th episode to be recorded, was a real gem of an episode. This was the episode when Dara and Phill mentioned this very blog. As I expected it wasn't included in the show, mainly since it was mentioned whilst a technical difficulty prevented the show from being recorded.

The real genius in this episode was the 'Call My Euro Bluff' round. For those that don't understand this reference (because they are too young or such) should click here. This part of the episode lasted surprisingly long and took up a large chunk of the recording. Stephen also had a question, which was also a Bloff. Unfortunately the researchers (one of whom was supposedly working up until the last moment) couldn't find a wacky European law that was actually true.

The audiences' klaxon really does deserve an apology from the BBC (given the current climate). The audience didn't know the words and those who did sing it the first time couldn't be heard. Hence the version that you can actually hear in the show was recorded afterwards in the pick-ups.

This was also the episode in which Alan began filming the audience. You can view his videos on youtube or by clicking the videos in the sidebar. Before the recording started Phill Jupitus' flag was upside down. It was only 10 minutes before the warm-up (Gordon Southern on this occassion) that a member of our party pointed it out and the problem was solved.

The elephant in the room question was a surprise to everyone. The audience and the panellists had all been far too preoccupied with the flags on their desks to notice the change in notebooks.

All in all this was an episode that maintained the high quality of this current series. Even before the half-way point it is clear that this series has exceeded all of those before it. If you haven't seen it on BBC4 already, watch out for the Everything episode next week.

And finally, don't forget to watch the QI Vodcast for the Europe episode, currently available here. It includes the largest thing you can rent in Europe for £170k/day, more about Belgium and composting!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 37

The cool days of Autumn have arrived so it's time for QI to think about the seasonal changes. Read this week's column here.

Also, don't forget that now that since UKTV G2 has rebranded as 'Dave' and is now available on freeview, you can watch repeats of QI on a regular basis. Tonight, tomorrow and Monday the channel is showing a QI marathon so tune into freeview 19 for a true QI-fest.

Sunday, 14 October 2007

QI E04 Review - Exploration

Read the recording review here.

The episode was all about Exploration and the guests were Bill Bailey, Rich Hall and Sean Lock however I do think that the star of the show has to be the superb moonwalking manikin bird. It was the second episode to be recorded and will be one of the most memorable episodes of the series!

The top explorer was Rich Hall with 8 points followed by Bill Bailey with 3 points , Alan Davies with -8 points and, in last place, was Sean Lock getting a bit lost with -16 points... No one got the elephant in the room bonus this week even though I thought it was obvious...maybe the guests were too close to the large screens to see the elephant on the map.

Once again the vodcast (found here) is well worth a look and it includes some hilarious out-takes previously only seen by the 500 (approx) people in the audience back on 11 May ;-) It also contains the whole section of the programme regarding the manikin bird for anyone who wants to see it again....and again....and again....or is that just me?

Next week's episode is all about Europe so you have almost a week to brush up on your European languages, European laws and European landmarks to help you through it...

Friday, 12 October 2007

The Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 36

This week's column is about all things three. Click here to read the column.

Monday, 8 October 2007

The Interesting Bits

The Interesting Bits: The History You Might Have Missed is a new book from QI Elf and historian Justin Pollard. The book contains 200 interesting bits from history that have been largely forgotten. Watch out for a review on this blog coming soon.

Click here to order the book from amazon.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

QI E03 Review - Eating

Read the recording review here.

This was actually the 7th episode of this series to be recorded back on 31 May. It sees the first episode for a new panellist, Johnny Vegas, who starred along side Jimmy Carr and Phill Jupitus. Johnny was, as usual, quite loud and he did seem to get on Stephen's nerves at times as could be told by his blunt responses and the very unusual swearing!

The highlight of this episode was 'rabbits' - it was pointed out that eating nothing but rabbit would kill you however it took Stephen a long time to get this through to the panellists! This week's 'Elephant in the Room' bonus was won jointly by Phill and Alan who worked out that mongongo nuts are often to be found in elephant dung...

The surprise winner with -2 points was none other than Alan Davies with Johnny Vegas hot on his heels with -3. With -6 was Jimmy Carr and in last place with -21 was Phill Jupitus...even though he got the bonus mentioned above!

This week's excellent QI vodcast (which can be found on the BBC QI website) begins and ends with Stephen doing what I think is a very good impression of the QI-newcomer, Johnny Vegas, who seemed quite impressed and amused. It is full of extra bits from the recording which didn't make it into the final cut - well worth a look!!

The next episode on Friday at 22:00 on BBC2 is particularly memorable to me as one particular part was absolutely hilarious so make sure you watch it! :-)

Friday, 5 October 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 35

This week interesting things J become the subject of the column. Click here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

QI E02 Review - Electricity

Read the recording review here.

Foremost, I apologize for the lateness of this review; there were extenuating circumstances involving moving to England for a year's study and being cut off from the internet for several days. All is up and running now, thank goodness.

Although this was the second episode of the "E" series, it was the first of the series to be recorded; predicting the out-of-order transmission, Stephen was told to be careful not mention anything about it being the start of a new series.

A running joke throughout the evening was Stephen's unusual attraction to a horse that was shown as one of the viewscreen pictures, and the panellists took it in turns to rib him about it as often as possible. Most, if not all, of these jokey asides made it into the cut episode, and it worked very well without seeming overdone. Alan also did well in this regard by his multiple breathless conjectures about harnessing the immense power of lightning.

Each of the other panellists had some golden moments over the half hour. Jo Brand impressed everyone by her easy recall of the probability density definition of the electron. Sean Lock took an almost uncharacteristic walk on the intellectual side of the game and explained why, due to poaching, some elephants were being born without tusks, but made sure to follow up this revelation with his typical jolly silliness. Rich Hall, too, demonstrated his special ability to tell incongruous stories with a straight face while explaining his relationship to the long-deceased man who had been struck by lightning seven times.

You might have noticed that Rich Hall seemed a bit baffled when the scores were announced; they'd emphasized earlier that his one point came from his rather trivial calling out the name "Menlo Park", and funnily, it turned out that he received no further points than that. After the recording ended, he declared petulantly, "I got one point because I've been to Menlo Park," which, if it's any consolation to Rich, earned him supportive laughter.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the episode was Stephen's exaggerated camp German accent, which he exemplified by patting himself down with a distressed expression while voicing, "Oh, wo ist mein Handy? Ich habe mein Handy verloren!" (To non-adepts of German: "Oh, where's my mobile? I've lost my mobile phone!") It was certainly a hit with the audience, and caught Jo Brand's fancy particularly as well, for she got him to repeat the imitation later on in the recording.

The QI Quickie that accompanied the episode offered an extra discussion that didn't make it into the show: "Suggest a way to shock a couple of hundred monks," featuring French profanity and Rich Hall's punmanship. The panellists also discuss electric fences, the arrogance of pioneers in the history of electricity, and Alan's unfortunate experience with stripped wires.

There are several moments that I took note of during the recording that didn't make it into the final cut, but I hesitate before sharing with you in the hopes that they'll be featured in the 13th episode. Keep an eye out for Jo's story about why she had recent reason to call the emergency services, and Sean Lock's musing on his peculiar physics teacher.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Exclusive Review - The Book of Animal Ignorance

The Book of Animal Ignorance by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson is available to pre-order from

The Book of Animal Ignorance is quite different from its predecessor, the Book of General Ignorance. The few people that disliked the first QI book complained that its question and answer style made them feel stupid (although the fact that so many people bought it seems to suggest that people quite enjoyed this). You won’t get that feeling when reading the latest edition from the QI team.

The book has lost the question and answer style of the book of general ignorance. Instead it has been organised into two-page sections, each concerning one of 100 animals, organised alphabetically. Hence the focus has drifted away from the ignorance and over to the animal. However, that does not mean that the book is any less interesting.

For someone who religiously watches the TV show which the book accompanies, this book is far more rewarding. The first book lifted much of its material from the general ignorance round in the show. That which hadn’t been seen by viewers of the show, probably hadn’t made the cut. For this book it is clear that a considerable amount of extra research has been done.

Since much of the research has been done exclusively for the book, you can begin to perceive some of the themes that preoccupied the authors and their elves. The etymology of animal names is a clear example. Understanding how an animal was named gives a fascinating insight into what we believed we knew about the animal in the past and how our relationship with it has changed. The mouse is an excellent example:

“The very name ‘mouse’ ultimately derives from the Sanskrit root mush, which means mouse and also to steal. Hence wherever we went thereafter – on foot, in carts, or by ship – the little thief kept us company.”

There’s also a very strong focus on evolution and how natural selection produced some of the stranger animals in the book. This makes for some interesting discussion, especially for those animals that have existed in isolation for so long.

If the book makes a reference to barbs, spines, nails or unfolding like a Swiss army knife then something about male genitalia is probably about to follow. The topic of animal reproduction and their reproductive organs is something this book doesn’t shy away from. It certainly makes for intriguing discussion. Both men and women will find that this book will create feelings of varying degrees of supremacy and inadequacy. However, one must disagree with the claim that “if the Nine-banded armadillo were human its penis would be 4 feet long”. If it were human then it would have a human sized penis.

Accompanying the section on each animal is at least one picture drawn by Ted Dewan. Reading a book as interesting as this, it would be easy to rush onto read about the next animal without glancing at these excellent illustrations. Don’t! These pictures don’t just illustrate what is described in the text but also include some of the most interesting pieces of information in the book. They range from mechanical drawings (Ted Dewan trained as an engineer) to illustrate an owl’s ability to move its head around 360 degrees, to the life-like drawing of a catfish. Some will set you laughing out loud like the sketch of a brown bear wandering around a supermarket. Also, don’t miss the extra facts and quotes in the grey boxes. The best one accompanies the section about humans.

“Human beings, who are unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so” Douglas Adams.

The book includes at its start a foreword by Stephen Fry, a ‘forepaw’ by Alan Davies (which is far bigger than his contribution to the first book) and an introduction by the authors John Lloyd and John Mitchinson. All three are well worth reading and avoid skipping straight into the main text. As they explain, QI is as much a philosophy as a TV show and animals are the bread and butter of interestingness. A quote from Henry Beston in the book:

“In a world older and more complex than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with the extension of the sense we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings: they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”

The amazing illustrations, the tireless research by the elves and the philosophy of QI have combined to create an excellent book. You can dip into it and be confident that you will always be rewarded with something you didn’t know. I sincerely suggest that you take up the author’s invitation to “come down to the waterhole of ignorance and wallow with us for a while”.

Daily Telegraph QI Column - week 34

This week's column follows on with more animal related facts. Click here to read the column.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Biography 11: Jo Brand

In our penultimate focus on QI panellists, we bring you the fabulous “ladygirl” that is Jo Brand.

Josephine Grace Brand was born on 3rd May 1957 in Hastings, East Sussex. At school, she took piano lessons and had a bad experience with playing the violin. By the age of 16, she was going out with a heroin addict and, after being told by her family to get her act together, she soon left home. She had been slim up until this point, but not long after, the weight crept on; she made up with her parents, ditched her boyfriend and moved to London.

Brand's mother was a social worker, and Brand herself worked as a psychiatric nurse in her late 20s at the South London Bethlem and Maudsley Hospital. Three things spurred her to begin a career in stand-up comedy: her weight, the lack of female comics on the circuit at the time, and her agent Malcolm Hardee, whom she was romantically linked with for a while. Acquiring the stage name "The Sea Monster", she soon became central to the British alternative comedy movement, working London alternative comedy clubs, and appearing initially on the Saturday Live television show in the early 1980s.

In 1993, she began her transition into mainstream comedy when she hosted her own series on Channel 4, Jo Brand Through the Cakehole, co-written with comedy writer and partner Jim Miller, who by then was already her main stand-up writer. Around this time, she was living in the Elephant and Castle area of London. Though it was a rough estate, many comedians, when the London Comedy Circuit has closed down for the night, would often venture there for after hours drink and drug-fuelled sessions of board games. Such comedians included Mark Lamarr, Jeff Green, and Alan Davies.
More recently her humour has softened and she has been a guest on such television shows as Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks. She has had several solo television series, and presented shows such as Jo Brand's Commercial Breakdown. In 2003, she was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.

In 2004, Jo appeared in a special episode of What Not to Wear, where fashion gurus Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine gave her a makeover. As a fan of Countdown, she achieved an ambition when she was asked to appear in the show's Dictionary Corner as the celebrity guest. She later became a friend of host Richard Whiteley. Following his death in 2005, she attended his memorial service at York Minster. She appeared again on Countdown in "Dictionary Corner" in February 2007.

Jo has a close association with Comic Relief. Perhaps against her better judgement, she took part in the first celebrity version of Comic Relief does Fame Academy and then in 2007 in Comic Relief Does The Apprentice.

On 25 March 2007, Brand appeared on reality television show Play It Again where she was required to learn how to play the organ in just four months. This was in preparation to perform at the Royal Albert Hall on the largest pipe organ in the British Isles.

Despite rumors to the contrary she turned out not to be a lesbian but after reading it in the newspapers for so long, she started to believe it. She has described men as "fantastic – as a concept". Brand is a big fan of Crystal Palace Football Club, and has sponsored the match ball for games in the past. She also once delivered a guest lecture on the subject of Psychiatric Nursing for the University of Derby Psychology Society. The lecture was reportedly highly ironic.

As the only regular female panellist on QI, Jo has had to compete with the men for laughs, but has still flourished with her self-deprecating humour. She has thoroughly deserved her place as the most frequent guest on the show. Jo will return on several occasions for series E.

Monday, 24 September 2007

"QI in America" Petition Milestone

Warm greetings to you from the States!

I'm happy to report that, following the start of the new series, and thanks in part, I'm sure, to our new place of honor at the top of the QI Talk forums, the "QI in America" petition reached 1000 signatures this morning.

And the numbers are still quickly rising! If you're new to the game, click through to go to the text of the petition, and to its homepage. We've no limit to the number of signatories for household, so if you know your family and friends would be interested, do pass along the word. Bonus elf points for leaving a quite interesting comment along with your signature. x

Sunday, 23 September 2007

QI E01 Review - Engineering

Read the recording review here.

This was the fourth episode to be recorded in May and one that I have particularly fond memories of because I was a production guest and following the episode I went to the green room.

One of the funnier features of this episode was the train that was used to send sweets to the panellists when they got a correct answer. Of course the use of toffees wasn't very wise. In rehearsals Roses' chocolates were used and these could be consumed far quicker than the mastication intense toffee. As a consequence, Rob Brydon really did struggle to get his words out whilst the toffee was stored in his cheeks like a hamster. The other guests kept their sweets until the end so that after the show they could throw them into the audience.

There was a rather interesting introduction for the Elephant in the Room card. Perhaps what wasn't mentioned is that playing the card comes with a points penalty if an elephant isn't the answer. This was the downfall for Bill Bailey who achieved one of his worst ever scores.

There was one very significant section missing from the show and it wasn't included in the vodcast either. Now this was the funniest moment in the entire series for me but discussing it with Piers Fletcher after the show, he described the fact that such jokes are funny because they just keep going. Hence fitting it into the show was unlikely because it would take up so much time.

However, one mustn't forget that the thirteenth episode will be a clip show formed entirely from unbroadcast material. Piers' hints that the last one on the show is hilarious makes me wonder if this is it. Hence I shall reveal nothing more about what happened that was so funny. You'll have to wait until after Christmas to see it though.

The QI vodcast which accompanied this show included some extra unbroadcast material so I sincerely suggest that you go check it out here. It's 7 minutes long. Extra features include the London Eye, Darwin Awards, Vaseline and Alan's comments about fans wanting photos. The decision to make a vodcast only came about during the series so you'll note that the early recordings' intros and outros were filmed after the recording. That's the case for Bill Bailey's intro here, although later shows will have a selection that involves the audience and Stephen.

This episode was an unusual second place for Alan. He has won three episodes before but 2nd places are rare. Only in episode A07 has Alan been second until now. I know how Alan does in the rest of the series, but I won't be spoiling that for you. I didn't even write notes of the scores!

Edit: News just in (20:30 24/09/07) QI E01 was the highest rated programme on BBC2, Channel 4 and 5 over the entire weekend (Fri-Sat).

Next week's review for E02 will be presented by MinervaMoon, our USA correspondent who made the trip to the UK to watch the recording.

(Don't forget this Friday, the exclusive review of the Book of Animal Ignorance)

Friday, 21 September 2007

QI Blog EXCLUSIVE and More News

Next Friday (28th September) you will be able to read an EXCLUSIVE advance review of the new QI Book; The Book of Animal Ignorance. The review will include some brief extracts. The book will be published on Thursday 4th October. Pre-order here.

Also, from this Sunday you'll be able to read a review of this week's episode of QI. Since the show will have been broadcast (twice including Saturday repeat) there wont be any whited out text for the spoilers.

Don't forget to watch episode one (E01) of QI tonight on BBC2 at 22:00 and episode 2 (E02) on BBC4 at 22:30. Following the show you'll be able to watch the QI Vodcast on the BBC website.

(Note: this is the fourth post today, read on for more news)

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 33

There's a special column this week about Animals. Some good hints at what you'll get from the QI Book of Animal Ignorance (see above to read about the exclusive on this blog next week). Click here to read the column.

The QI Petition Needs Your Signature!

The QI petition to get BBC America to show QI in the USA has now been going just over a month. It has now received over 850 signatures and it is still growing! However, it needs more signatures to be a success and now that the new series is about to start plenty of new people will need to learn about the petition. Please sign it by clicking here and do your bit by spreading the word to your friends, family and online.

New Cover for the QI Annual

Similarly to TBOAI, the first cover that I posted for the Annual was only a draft. This one is the real deal. It draws heavily on the style of the Dandy.

ComedyBox - QI News - Episode 1

ComedyBox, the brainchild of QI producer John Lloyd has launched the 'QI News' a sketch based roughly around QI with interesting facts thrown into the mix. You can watch the show by going here.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

QI Annual Front Cover

Here it is in all of its glory. Note that contributors to the annual include Clive Anderson, Rowan Atkinson, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Chris Donald, Alan Davies and Stephen Fry.

Biography 10: Phill Jupitus

Phill Jupitus, the second most frequent guest on QI, becomes the focus of this week's blog.

Phill's career in entertainment began in 1984 when he quit his job in a DHSS job centre to become 'Porky the Poet'. For the rest of the 80's he focussed on his performance poetry and moving into the music industry. This included supporting Billy Bragg in the Red Wedge tour and directing a couple of music videos, one of which was nominated for a Brit award. These experiences have certainly been valuable to Phill's comedy career.

Only in 1989 when Phill quit his job at Go! Discs did he begin to concentrate on a comedic career. Whilst he earned his reputation on the London comedy circuit and TV show warm ups, Phill continued to dip back into the music industry. In 1995 he started a show on Greater London Radio which would last until 2000. However, his true break into comedy came courtesy of Never Mind the Buzzcocks on which he has been a team captain since its creation in 1996. His music knowledge made him the ideal man for the job. The show gave him regular TV exposure that fledgling comedians like himself could only dream of.

During the late 1990's Phill had two UK tours. The first Jedi, Steady, Go was a comedic retelling of the Star Wars trilogy. The second called Quadrophobia discussed his many fears like arachnophobia as well as near-death experiences.

Phill made his first appearance on QI in the series A Christmas special (A12) and he been a panellist on 16 occasions. This included 5 in series D, the most of any guest in one series. Jupitus is well known on the show for his impressions of the 'upper-class Fry' which are performed with a superb toffs' accent. Despite the frequency of his appearances he has only won one episode (B03).

Perhaps the reason that Jupitus has been so successful on QI is his renowned improvisation skills. Phill tours with the Big City Improv a comedy troupe that asks the audience to provide subjects around which they create sketches on the spot. He also makes regulars guest performances on the radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

This year Phill has moved into a new medium. He has co-written and starred in the play Waiting For Alice. In the play which ran at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he and Andre Vincent play Tweedledee and Tweedledum from the book Through the Looking Glass. Both Andre Vincent and Phill Jupitus claim that people regularly confuse them for each other, hence why they hit on the idea of playing twins. The play focuses on the 69 years they have been waiting for Alice to turn up for them to perform their part. The two of them take it in turn to play the the two different roles, switching for each performance. Jupitus claims that the play was largely the idea of Vincent but that his poetic background gave him the skills to produce the strong script.

Phill will return for another 4 episodes of series E of QI. His first episode will be E03 to broadcast on 5th October.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 32

Last week QI went BIG. Now it's going small. Check out the QI column here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

QI Interactive DVD Release Date

The (second) QI Interactive DVD to be called "QI Strictly Come Duncing" will be released on November 19th. You can now pre-order the DVD on here. Also check out this post about the research for the DVD.

Biography 9: Rich Hall

This week is the turn of the American comedian who can explain biscuits and gravy, and wizards at roundabouts (but not the Clangers), Mr Rich Hall.

Rich was born on 10th June 1954 in Alexandria, Virginia. He drifted into street performing to pay off his student debts (at one stage, he supposedly faked his own death to avoid the payments). His original act was based around getting various passers-by to act out famous horror movie scenes. By this time, he had already worked on a newspaper and had also, rather bizarrely, been commentating on donkey basketball games. He soon quit that to pursue a career in comedy, at first touring with a stand-up act supporting the group Talking Heads.

He made his first appearance as a writer and performer in 1980 on the sketch comedy TV series Fridays. He then went on to appear in Not Necessarily the News (the American version of Not the Nine O’clock News) and Saturday Night Live (with the recurring character Robert Latta). He made further debuts on chat shows like the Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien where he won two Emmy awards). In 1986, he had his own Showtime channel special, Vanishing America, which was turned into a book with the same name. According to one interview, by 1990 he had been in the comedy business for 11 years. In the same year, he hosted his own talk show on the Comedy Channel, entitled Rich Hall's Onion World.

It was in these 1980s shows that he invented the term "sniglet", described as “any word that doesn’t appear in the dictionary, but should”. He collected and published five books of examples of sniglets. As well as this, it has now been widely considered that he was the inspiration for the character Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons. This was later confirmed by creator Matt Groening.

Rich then began to gain momentum and popularity in the UK, where he now lives. This began with appearances in panel shows like QI, 8 Out Of 10 Cats, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Have I Got News For You (in the latter, he had to perform in an edition following the September 11th 2001 attacks). He also gave a memorable performance on Top Gear, where he successfully managed to make a song about a Rover 25 car, much to the enjoyment of the audience and Jeremy Clarkson. His popularity has spread further, becoming a panellist on the Irish show Don't Feed The Gondolas and Australian shows like The Glass House and Spicks and Specks. He regularly appears at the Kilkenny Cat Laughs comedy festival and at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. In 2004, in the Jack Dee series Live at the Apollo, he achieved recognition for his comments about Tom Cruise’s acting skills.

In 2000, Rich won the Perrier Comedy Award at the Edinburgh Fringe alongside regular band The Black Friars. He played the character called Otis Lee Crenshaw, who is Rich’s uncle and a much-convicted country music singer. As Crenshaw, Rich has released several albums and performed a concert movie called ‘London, Not Tennessee’. In 2000 Rich also won the Time Out Comedy Award and an Adelaide Fringe Festival Award. In 2004, he published a book of memoirs, entitled Otis Lee Crenshaw: I Blame Society, and has recently finished a screenplay for a film based on the book, written for the director Mel Smith.

In 2006 Rich wrote and acted in a play called Levelland at the Edinburgh Festival. He has had three BBC series, Rich Hall's Badly Funded Think Tank, Rich Hall's Fishing Show in 2003, and Rich Hall's Cattle Drive in 2006, as well as a one off programme about the 2004 American Presidential Elections, Rich Hall's Election Special.

Rich is one the most frequent panellists on QI and has always sat in the same seat, on Stephen’s immediate left. His clash of cultures with Stephen and his grumpy but twisted sense of humour ensures his popularity, and we look forward to seeing more of Rich in future QI episodes.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Series "E" Transmission Dates

Mark those calendars: Series "E" of QI will begin airing on 21 September at 10:00 pm on BBC 2!

There will be 13 episodes: 12 recorded shows and one compilation. According to Piers Fletcher, of (among other claims) a-post-on-this-blog-a-couple-of-days-ago fame:

The 13th (compilation) show features all unbroadcast material taken from the other 12, but I don't think you could describe it as coming from the cutting-room floor because that implies that it's stuff that didn't make the cut, whereas the opposite is the case: we've loaded it up with some of the best material, especially the bits where Stephen loses control.
Order of transmission:
  1. Engineering
    Bill Bailey, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr, and Alan Davies
  2. Electricity
    Jo Brand, Rich Hall, Sean Lock, and Alan Davies
  3. Eating
    Jimmy Carr, Phill Jupitus, Johnny Vegas, and Alan Davies
  4. Exploration
    Bill Bailey, Rich Hall, Sean Lock, and Alan Davies
  5. Everything
    Clive Anderson, Jeremy Clarkson, Vic Reeves, and Alan Davies
  6. Europe
    Phill Jupitus, David Mitchell, Dara Ó Briain, and Alan Davies
  7. Espionage
    Clive Anderson, Jo Brand, Vic Reeves, and Alan Davies
  8. Eyes & Ears
    Jimmy Carr, David Mitchell, Phill Jupitus, and Alan Davies
  9. Entertainment - Children in Need special
    Bill Bailey, Pudsey Bear, Jo Brand, Jeremy Clarkson, and Alan Davies
  10. England
    Charlie Higson, Phill Jupitus, Sean Lock, and Alan Davies
  11. Endings
    Jimmy Carr, Doon Mackichan, Dara Ó Briain, and Alan Davies
  12. Empire
    Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Sean Lock, and Alan Davies
  13. Elephants
    All the best bits that couldn’t be squeezed into the E series (without any elephants).
There will also be BBC-style video podcasts to accompany many of the episodes, so watch this space for news on where to find and watch them.

The TV listings at the bottom of this page have now been updated to include the expected transmission dates for the E series. E series reviews have been updated to include their new episode number.

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 31

The QI column this week looks at anything big. Click here.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Cutting Masterpieces

Piers Fletcher here, jack-of-several-trades on the show. QI Fanatic thought you might want to hear about the editing process on the show.

The edit is very key. What you see on the screen is the 30-minute distillation of at least 90 minutes' material. I know those guys seem just razor-sharp and button-cute on the show, but, trust me, if you and I had an editor following us around cutting out two-thirds of everything we said, we'd all sound like Oscar Wilde. So, imagine what it's like when you take someone who sounds like Oscar Wilde in the first place, and then edit him to be even sharper and quicker than he already is - you end up with the best conversationalist you ever met: Dorothy Parker or Melvyn Bragg, or the Queen of Sheba or somebody.

Or … Stephen Fry. And that's it, in a nutshell.

The topical panel shows like HIGNFY and Mock the Week need to edit on the fly, recording and editing a show a week, but at QI we record all twelve and only then go into the edit suite. First, we get a transcript of the whole recording, from which we make a 'paper cut', a first stab at cutting fairly big chunks out of the recording - bits which clearly didn't work or where there were technical problems. Then we go into editing suite in Soho with director Ian Lorimer and edit wizard Nick King (who moonlights, literally, as an astronomical photographer - check his work at and work through what's left. We aim to cut each show down to about 35 minutes on the first pass, and then we go through it again to trim it to 29 or so, and then again to take out all the coughs and splutters.

The main work is done on that first pass. Sometimes there are painful decisions to be made; we almost always have to cut something we love. The criteria are fairly obvious: if it's interesting and funny, it's in, if it's neither interesting nor funny, it's out, and if it's either interesting or funny but not both it's up for argument. However, in the next series there will be a compilation show at the end of the series with unbroadcast material from all but one of the episodes. That plus a 7 minute online vodcast after each episode has made some of the decisions to cut sections easier.

It's all done digitally, of course, and Nick works the machines with unbelievable speed and skill. Even so, it takes us many weeks to complete all twelve shows - in fact we're only now delivering the E Series to the BBC so that it can start on the 21st September.

I have to say, however long it takes it always feels like time well spent.

Monday, 3 September 2007

E Series and Stateside

Two pieces of great news to report this evening. The first is that QI series E will start on Friday the 21st September on BBC2. The first episode will be Engineering. This was the 4th episode to be recorded and you can see the review here.

The second piece of good news is that The Book of General Ignorance, released in the US on the 7th August, is selling very well. It is now in the top 100 books on the bestsellers list. If you are in the US you can buy it here. It recently received a very good review in the NY Times. Obviously we can only hope that this will translate into more progress for the QI Petition.

Finally, this is the 99th post on this blog. When I wrote the 50th I promised something special for the 100th and I wont disappoint. On Wednesday I will be posting an exclusive look behind the scenes at the post-production process for the show as written by head elf Piers Fletcher.

Biography 8: Bill Bailey

It’s time to gander in awe at the part troll and confused hippy that is Mr Bill Bailey.

Mark "Bill" Bailey was born on 24th February 1964. His father is a doctor, but he shares Bill’s passion for comedy. He spent the majority of his childhood in Bath. He attended King Edward's School, where he tried to “study everything”. He was once told that his ideal job would be a “museum curator” or a “member of the diplomatic service”. He excelled in music, and it was while at school that he was given his nickname Bill, when a music teacher once sang the song "Won't You Come Home Bill Bailey". Bill started a punk rock band called the "Famous Five”. However, he is a classically trained musician and he received an associateship with the London College of Music.

Bill began touring the country with other comedians such as Mark Lamarr and Phill Jupitus. In 1986 he formed a double act, the Rubber Bishops, with Toby Longworth (later Martin Stubbs). They achieved a certain amount of success on the club circuit, partly due to their rigorous schedule. According to comedy folklore, after one reviewer criticised his act for its lack of jokes, Bill returned the following night to perform a set composed entirely of punchlines.

In 1994 Bill performed the show Rock at the Edinburgh Fringe with Sean Lock. It was later serialised for the Mark Radcliffe show on BBC Radio 1. He confessed in an interview with The Independent that after this he almost gave comedy up to do a telesales job. He persevered, however, and went solo the next year with Bill Bailey's Cosmic Jam. The show was very well received and led to a recording at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London which was broadcast in 1996 on Channel 4.

In 2001, Bailey began touring the globe with Bewilderness, which became a huge success. It was released on DVD the same year, and the show was broadcast on Channel 4 that Christmas. He premiered his next show Part Troll at the Edinburgh Fringe in the summer of 2003. It has toured all over the UK as well as in America, Australia and New Zealand, and was released on DVD in 2004. As part of the show he contributed to another punk rock band, a Kraftwerk spoof called Augenblick. In March 2007 his stand-up was recognised by Channel 4 which declared him the 7th greatest stand-up comedian of all time.

Although Bill had made TV appearances as early as 1991, his break into TV came in 1996 after he was nominated for the Perrier Comedy Award. The nomination was enough to get him noticed, and in 1998 the BBC gave him his own television show, Is It Bill Bailey?

Over the next few years, Bill made guest appearances on shows such as Have I Got News For You, Room 101, Des O'Connor Tonight and Coast to Coast. When Sean Hughes left his role as captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2002, Bill became his successor and has been there ever since. Other television appearances include Jonathan Creek (opposite Alan Davies), 15 Storeys High and several interviews on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

In 2000, he starred in the Channel 4 sitcom Black Books as Manny Bianco. Three successful series of six episodes were made. He also starred in the sitcom Spaced, in which he played comic-shop manager Bilbo Bagshot.

Bailey’s film credits include British comedy film Saving Grace, and also voiced the sperm whale in 2005's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. He also had two minor roles as a police receptionist in the 2007 film Hot Fuzz.

Radio performances include two episodes each of The 99p Challenge, I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue, and Just a Minute. Bailey is closely involved with the radio show presented by QI producer John Lloyd called The Museum of Curiosities. A pilot has been produced and the first series has been commissioned for early 2008.

Bill is amongst the most popular guests on QI and despite missing a whole series last year due to his US tour, he is the fourth most frequent panellist. Bill featured in the pilot which he won and he was the only guest in the pilot to return. However, Bill has so far won only two shows both in the C series. This perhaps shows his willingness to play along and give klaxon answers.

Bill is now preparing for a UK tour named Tinselworm planned for November, and an Australian tour for the following year. Additionally, Bill is planning to put himself forward as Britain's Eurovision entry in 2008, as a result of several fan petitions encouraging him to do so.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 30

This week's QI column is all about things two. You can go read it here.

Also take note that another error by the brilliant editors on the Telegraph website now means that there are two columns labelled for week 25 and two for 28. Of course this means that the column is actually in week 30 despite this week's being labelled as 28.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Biography 7: Sean Lock

This week, our focus is on the infamous koala fiend, Mr Sean Lock.

Born on 22nd April 1963 in Woking, Sean Lock first began a career as a builder. Eventually he took to a new path as a stand up comedian, beginning with a five-minute open spot in a small pub in Hackney in 1988. He is currently a regular at London's Comedy Store and has appeared at all the major festivals around the world including Edinburgh, Melbourne, Montreal and the Stavanger Humorfestivat in Norway. In 2000, his show 'No Flatley, I Am The Lord Of The Dance' was nominated for the prestigious Perrier Award. That year he also received a British Comedy Award for Best Stand Up (previous winners have included Jack Dee, Eddie Izzard and Jo Brand). Sean has also won a Time Out Comedy Award.

Sean has performed in some of the most successful live shows of recent years, beginning in 1995 when he collaborated with Bill Bailey on Rock, a much misunderstood music industry spoof, which would later become serialised on Radio 1. His radio credits include regular contributions to Mark Radcliffe's Evening Show on Radio 1, Loose Ends on Radio 4, and The Treatment on Radio 5. He made his name in radio in 1998/9 with the show 15 Minutes of Misery on Radio 4, written by and starring Lock as the inhabitant of a South London tower block. This series grew into 15 Storeys High, where he played the same character, renamed as Vince and now a swimming pool lifeguard. It ran for two series on radio and two series on television in 2004.

As well as 15 Storeys High, Sean has gradually moved his comedy towards television, commencing with his own slot on the show Newman and Baddiel in Pieces, where he played Shenley Grange in a recurring sketch called Disappearing World – the character would warn about endangered species before ultimately killing said species. He subsequently became the first comedian to perform at Wembley Arena due to the fact that he was supporting Robert Newman and David Baddiel. However, he was booed offstage, and it was Newman and Baddiel who were widely reported as being the first to have done this.

As a writer, Sean co-created Mark Lamarr's Leaving The 20th Century, and has contributed to such shows as Never Mind The Buzzcocks, It's Only TV But I like It, and Is It Bill Bailey, and also wrote material for Bailey, Lamarr and Lee Evans. His other television credits include appearances on The World Of Lee Evans, Here's Johnny, and The Stand Up Show. He has also guested on the World Cup special edition of They Think It's All Over.

Sean is currently a team captain on the Channel 4 panel show 8 Out Of 10 Cats (a position he has held for the previous two years) and has his own show on the same channel, TV Heaven Telly Hell, that returned for a second series this year.

On QI, Sean has proved remarkably popular with such stories about how he got a little too close to a koala, how he went to a fish ‘n’ chip shop in Eastbourne (which wasn’t open), and most memorably, his discovery of a portal to the underworld while Rory McGrath discussed Latin bird names. Given his popularity, his appearances in future QI series seem assured.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

E Series - Rumoured 13th Episode

Those who read the reviews of this year's E Series recordings will have noted that there were only 12 episodes. Series D included 13 episodes so there has been suspicion of a secret 13th episode would be made for the next season.

It has now been confirmed that there will be a 13th episode made using clips from the 12 recordings. It is expected to include all new material that wont have been included in the first 12 episodes.

P.S. Don't forget the QI marathon on UKTV G2 on Saturday and Sunday night.

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 29

This week the column takes a close look at some I's. To read about IT, Indian Restaurants, Inventions, Idiot, Illegal and Inmates click here.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Biography 6: Clive Anderson

This week it’s time to turn our attention to the man who is 17% less annoying than Antarctica, Mr Cleeve, er sorry, Clive Anderson, pictured left here, next to Andy Parsons.

Clive was born in Stanmore, Middlesex in 1952. He was educated at Harrow County School for Boys, alongside future politician Michael Portillo. After studying law at Cambridge University, where he was also President of the Footlights revue group from 1974 to 1975, he was called to the bar a year later and practised as a barrister in London for about 15 years, specialising in criminal law.

Despite his busy work, he found time to become part of the alternative comedy scene in the early 1980s, and was the first person to come onstage at The Comedy Store in 1979. During this time he wrote scripts for Frankie Howard, Griff Rhys Jones, Mel Smith and others (including the sketch series Not the Nine O’clock News), and performed as a stand-up comedian, which led to presenting radio and television programmes. He began his chat show connections by once standing in for Terry Wogan on his show, but came to prominence in Whose Line Is It Anyway? on Radio 4 and then on Channel 4. It was here that he bore the brunt of jokes referring mostly to his baldness and short neck, but this did not stop him from achieving further exposure. The show won a BAFTA in 1989. He presented ten series of his chat show Clive Anderson Talks Back, picking up British Comedy Awards in 1991 and 1992 and being named Top Channel 4 Presenter that same year. He later moved on to BBC1 with Clive Anderson All Talk. In 2003 he also presided over The Big Read for BBC2. His chat shows have been particularly controversial, most notably for causing the Bee Gees to walk out of an interview in apparent disgust, although the interview had seemed to be progressing smoothly. He has also had water poured over him by Richard Branson. Conversely, he has gained the upper hand in conversations with both Jeffrey Archer and Piers Morgan, the latter in an appearance on Have I Got News For You, where he has made several appearances as a panellist.

On radio he has chaired Chat Room on Radio 2, and The Cabaret Upstairs and Unreliable Evidence on Radio 4. In Unreliable Evidence Clive cross-examines some of the most eminent legal figures in the country. Other broadcasting credits include the shows Time Cycle, The News Quiz, The Devil's Advocate and a Radio 5 Live series called The Real… where he has profiled figures such as Gordon Brown, George Bush and Jesus Christ. Clive is also an accomplished writer and has written for The Times, The Observer, The Listener and The Sunday Correspondent. He is a keen supporter of Arsenal FC and lives in Highbury.

On QI, his nervous but quick delivery continues to shine, as does his drawing skills (when asked to draw a wigwam, he instead drew the band Wham! wearing wigs). He was revealed to be President of the Woodland Trust, although Jo subsequently became President of the Shut Up About The Woodland Trust Trust. A frequent panellist since the beginning of the show, he appears in series E and it is safe to assume he will reappear in future series.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 28

This week's Telegraph column takes an in-depth look at islands. Click Here.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

"QI in America" Petition UPDATE

Hello from me again. The petition we've starting to bring "QI" to BBC America now has over 500 signatures! Notably, signature no. 423 was added by none other than John Lloyd, QI's incomparable producer (although, as you can see, he has gone to lengths to disguise his identity).

I'm very glad that so many of you have taken the time to show your support for the poor QI-less in the States. We will, however, need to further hype the petition if we hope to let it make a good impact upon the discriminating minds at BBC America, n'est-ce pas?

I leave you all with this charge: Encourage others you know to sign the petition and DIGG IT as well. I've never met a person who dared to dislike QI, so I'm willing to bet that you too would be hard-pressed to find someone unwilling to spread the influence of this British gem. x

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

QI Marathons and ComedyBox Launch

UKTV G2 will be showing another QI marathon on the weekend on the 25th/26th of August. It will include 18 back-to-back episodes on the Saturday and Sunday nights. Make sure that you take note of this if you want a QI fest.

ComedyBox will be launching on the 21st September. John Lloyd's pet project will include a new QI spin-off called QI News which will be available to watch online for free. Hopefully more information about this coming soon.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Biography 5: Jimmy Carr

Today we raise a glass to the man that is Jimmy Carr.

Carr was born on September 15th 1972 in Limerick, Ireland. Carr was very successful at school. He achieved four A grades at A-level and went on to gain a first in Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge. Following this, he took a job as a marketing executive for Shell, which lasted him just under two years and was, according to him, the “easiest job in the world”. He then joined JC Productions and began to work on a career in stand-up comedy. Whilst there, he made his first film, The Colour of Funny, which starred Red Dwarf comedian Craig Charles. Though the film was a flop, it brought Carr into comic writing and stand-up.

Eventually, Carr performed at the Royal Variety Performance which opened up TV opportunities for him. Channel 4 chose him to present game shows like Distraction and Your Face or Mine? He now presents the panel shows 8 Out Of 10 Cats, with fellow QI panellist Sean Lock as a team captain, and The Big Fat Quiz of the Year. He has also been a guest on Have I Got News For You.

Jimmy Carr has continued his stand-up career. In 2002 his first full-length show Bare-Faced Ambition won the Perrier award. In 2003, he was named the best stand-up at the Time Out Awards, and won the same award at the Laftas in 2004. He was named “funniest man” at the same awards a year later. And in 2006, his tour Gag Reflex was named Best Live Stand-Up at the British Comedy Awards. The Observer named him one of the funniest acts in British comedy in 2003, and he was placed 12th in a list of the 100 Greatest Stand-Ups by Channel 4 in 2007. He commences a new tour, Repeat Offender, in autumn this year.

Carr is one of the few comedians to have broken into the USA. He has appeared numerous times with chat show hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, hosted two series of Distraction USA and had a half-hour special on Comedy Central. Meanwhile in 2006 he acted in a number of films including Confetti, Alien Autopsy and Stormbreaker. He was also the first cyberspace comedian in the virtual reality world of Second Life.

Considering Jimmy Carr’s pedigree in panel shows he was an obvious choice of guest for QI. He has demonstrated his intelligence by coming up with the sentence “Put Smarties tubes on cats’ legs, make them walk like a robot” from a random selection of fridge-magnet letters. However, despite his claim that he only lost his virginity at 26, Carr has a reputation for producing a lot of ‘explicit material’ on QI. Anyone that has been to one of his recordings will know just how much has to be cut to allow the show to be broadcast. Still, Jimmy has earned his place as a regular panellist in the upcoming series E.

Stephen Fry Weekend on BBC4

Next weekend BBC4 will give its tribute to Stephen Fry. It'll kick off on Friday night with episode C03 of QI and will continue on Saturday with some of Fry's favourite shows. Highlights will include '50 Not Out' a special programme to celebrate Fry's 50th Birthday to be shown at 21:00 on Friday (plus several repeats later in the week). There will also be an hour long interview with Mr Fry by Mark Lawson on Saturday at 19:00. Friday night will also include shows in which Fry has featured like A Bit of Fry and Laurie, The Young Ones, Blackadder Goes Fourth and the film Wilde.

Click Here
for more details and listings.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Daily Telegraph QI Column - Week 27

Don't be fooled by the Telegraph's QI Column homepage. This is the 27th column, not the 26th. For a 'Digest of Discoveries' Click Here.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Biography 4: John Sessions

This week, we look at the life and times of Mr John Sessions.

Born John Gibb Marshall in 1953, John Sessions would later change his name when he became a performer. Sessions graduated with an MA in English literature from the University of Wales and later studied for a PhD in Ontario. Though he detested his experience in Canada, it was here that he first showed his skill at improvised comedy and stage acting. After he attended RADA he began to work in the small venue comedy circuit in the early 1980’s. He started with largely improvised freewheeling fantasy monologues, often topping a double bill with French and Saunders.

John Sessions made two film appearances in the 80’s but found these roles uncomfortable. He soon began to exhibit his strengths in improvised comedy with his one-man stage show Napoleon, which ran in London's West End. His ability to improvise landed him a spot as the first regular contestant on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?” on radio and television. It was here that he earned a reputation for being a swot because he has great literary knowledge. However, he also became known for his ability to convincingly portray accents and characters in a variety of styles.

In 1989, Sessions starred in his one-man TV show, John Sessions. The show involved Sessions performing before a live audience who were invited to nominate a person, a location and two objects from a selection, around which Sessions would improvise a surreal performance for the next half hour. After other similar shows he starred in Stella Street (1997) in which he plays a variety of middle-aged actors living in a suburban street, alongside Phil Cornwell.

Increasingly Sessions has returned to formal acting, with parts ranging from James Boswell in Boswell and Johnson's Tour of the Western Isles (1993) to Doctor Prunesquallor in the BBC adaptation of Gormenghast (2000). He has also appeared in some Shakespeare adaptations, appearing in; Henry V (1989) and In the Bleak Midwinter (1995). He also played Philostrate in the 1999 film of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Salerio in 2004's The Merchant of Venice. In the recent revival of Jackanory, Sessions made two appearances to tell the story of Muddle Earth.

On radio, one of Sessions’ most memorable shows came when he guested in 1997 on the regular BBC Radio 3 show Private Passions, not as himself but as a 112-year-old Viennese percussionist called Manfred Sturmer. He told anecdotes about Brahms, Clara Schumann, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg and others so realistically that some listeners did not realise that it was a hoax.

On QI, he has demonstrated his knowledge of the birth and deaths of many famous artists and composers, calling such an ability a “sickness”. He was subject to a Luvvie Alarm given to him for name-dropping Robert Redford (Stephen Fry was also given an alarm when he mentioned the Duke and Duchess of Westminster).

Given his impressive performances on QI he may be disappointed that he has only won once on his second show. His fans will also be disappointed that he did not attend any of the recordings in series E. One hopes that he will return in series F.